Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The National Security Agency and the Constitution
Jameel Jaffer - Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union
William Binney - Former Official, National Security Agency
James Bamford - Investigative Journalist
Alex Abdo - Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union
The National Security Agency, the largest, most powerful spy agency in the world, has taken in an estimated 15 to 20 trillion communications since 9/11, often in defiance of the Constitution and Congressional statutes. The NSA's goal, some say, is to collect virtually all of our electronic communications to allow mass data mining reminiscent of the notorious and now reportedly-defunct program, Total Information Awareness. The limits on the agency's authority to sweep up and analyze this information are critical to our safety and our privacy. The NSA is investing vast amounts in increasing its data storage, code-breaking and analysis capabilities, frequently claiming the investments are for foreign intelligence or "cybersecurity" purposes. However, instead of keeping its equipment trained on terrorism suspects or foreign governments, the NSA is increasingly monitoring the communications of innocent people. Longtime NSA official and whistleblower Bill Binney will join investigative journalist and NSA expert James Bamford and ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo to explore the NSA's goals, reach, and capabilities, and the legality (or illegality) of its actions.
The panel will be moderated by the Deputy Director of the ACLU, Jameel Jaffer.
Jameel Jaffer is Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU and Director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, which houses the ACLU's work on national security; human rights; and speech, privacy, and technology. He has litigated many cases involving government surveillance, including Doe v. Ashcroft, the case that resulted in the invalidation of the Patriot Act's "national security letter" provisions. Among the cases he is currently litigating are Clapper v. Amnesty, a challenge to warrantless wiretapping under the FISA Amendments Act, a case that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this fall; ACLU v. CIA, a suit under the Freedom of Information Act for records about the "targeted killing" program; and ACLU v. Department of Defense, a FOIA lawsuit seeking records relating to the Bush administration's torture program. The last of these cases has resulted in the disclosure of thousands of government records, including the "torture memos" written by lawyers in the Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel.
William Binney served in the National Security Agency for almost four decades, most recently as Technical Director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and of the Analytic Services Office. Mr. Binney previously worked as the NSA's Technical Director and leading analyst for warning for Russia. Before that, he served for four years in the Army Security Agency. Mr. Binney resigned from the NSA in 2001 to protest illegal monitoring of Americans' communications. Since then, he has worked for various government agencies on data management and advanced predictive analysis.
James Bamford is a bestselling author and one of the country's leading writers on intelligence and national security issues. His books include "The Puzzle Palace," "Body of Secrets," "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies," and most recently "The Shadow Factory". Mr. Bamford has also written extensively for magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, Harpers, and many other publications. In 2006, he won the National Magazine Award for Reporting for his piece "The Man Who Sold The War," published in Rolling Stone. In addition, he writes and produces documentaries for PBS and spent a decade as the Washington investigative producer for the ABC News program, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. He also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, as a distinguished visiting professor.
Alex Abdo is a Staff Attorney in the ACLU's National Security Project. He has been involved in the litigation of cases concerning the FISA Amendments Act, the Patriot Act, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and the treatment of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Navy brig in South Carolina. Among the cases he is currently litigating are: a challenge to warrantless wiretapping under the FISA Amendments Act, and Freedom of Information Act suits for records relating to the use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the use of "national security letters," and the Bush administration's warrantless-wiretapping program.